April 9, 2006


Businesses Make a Push for High-Skilled Foreign Workers (June Kronholz, 7 April 2006, The Wall Street Journal)

Last year, Stanford University awarded 88 Ph.D.s in electrical engineering, 49 of which went to foreign-born students. U.S. business would like to hang on to these kinds of prized graduates and not lose them to the world -- which is one reason why it has a big stake in the immigration bill that is consuming the Senate.

The fate of millions of illegal immigrants, most of them low-skilled workers, dominates that debate. But the future of thousands of high-skilled foreign workers seeking admission to the country -- scientists, mathematicians, health-care workers -- may be equally important to the U.S. economy. Because of the key role many of those workers play in cutting-edge businesses, industry lobbyists are pushing measures that would more than double the number of visas available to skilled workers.

But if the years-long effort to overhaul the U.S. immigration system collapses, the issue of those visas could be buried in the rubble. "Our biggest fear is that the other issue -- the undocumented workers -- bogs down and threatens the entire bill," says Ralph Hellman of the Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington-based trade group. [...]

As seen in the current talks, increasing visa limits for workers at all skill levels is certain to be part of any future compromise. Business is eager for more low-skilled immigration to keep the service and construction industries humming, but it's also lobbying hard for workers for high-tech and science-based industries.

Currently, only 65,000 three-year visas are available to skilled workers each year, and demand for those slots was so strong in the fiscal year that started in October 2005 that employers, who must sponsor those workers, snapped up all of them by last August.

Xenophobia's Threat to Prosperity (Charles Prince, March 29, 2006, Washington Post)
Citigroup employs 300,000 people in 100 countries. We are a guest in every one of those countries. We've bought companies in many of them and, with a few notable exceptions during periods of war and revolution, we've been welcomed with great hospitality everywhere for over a century -- just as the United States has welcomed many companies based in other countries. I sincerely hope things stay that way.

But that could prove a challenge in the current political environment. There are now upward of 30 proposals in Congress to make changes in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a little-known body that has the authority to suspend or prohibit any acquisition, merger or takeover of a U.S. corporation that is deemed to threaten national security. The committee, made up of representatives from a dozen federal agencies, has recently come under intense scrutiny, even though it has not allowed a single breach of national security since it was established in 1988.

Some of the proposals would place new and potentially damaging restrictions on foreign investment in the United States. Legitimate national security concerns are one thing, but introducing overt political considerations into decisions regarding the allocation of capital has the potential to undermine investor confidence -- both domestic and foreign -- in U.S. markets and to jeopardize the continued vibrancy, depth and liquidity of those markets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2006 9:47 PM

apples and oranges.

congress could have upped this any time they chose.

Posted by: sandy p at April 10, 2006 12:53 AM

This is Silicon Valley and Wall Street talking out of both sides of their mouths again. SV often clamors for increased H-1B visas. At the same time, a glut of computer scientists/engineers is holding down salaries very nicely, thankyouverymuch.

Posted by: Brad S at April 10, 2006 10:43 AM

Not as much as they'll be held down if we just outsource the work to American-educxted Indians back in India.

Posted by: oj at April 10, 2006 10:45 AM